Resurgence in ‘barbaric’ practice of cockfighting, Seanad hears

Animal breeders, Defence Forces personnel and foreign government official based in Ireland involved, claims Labour Senator

There has been a resurgence in the “barbaric” practice of cockfighting in backyards and purpose-built cockpits where “birds fight until they collapse”, according to Labour Senator Annie Hoey.

She said cockfighting had been outlawed almost 200 years ago but “this disgusting spectacle has seen a troubling revival” and those involved in the “sadistic sport” included “animal breeders, members of the Defence Forces and a foreign government official based in Ireland”.

Speaking in the Seanad she said journalism website Noteworthy had obtained footage which showed “horrific battles”. She said it was not just a remnant of a cruel past, “it is a blatant act of violence that inflicts unnecessary suffering on defenceless creatures for mere entertainment and profit. The animals are often drugged, equipped with sharp spurs and forced to fight to the death, resulting in horrific injuries and death. This resurgence signals not only a disregard for animal welfare laws but a disturbing tolerance for cruelty. The suffering and stress the animals endure is inconceivable.”

Warning that the State “has to get real about animal welfare”, Ms Hoey pointed to numerous occasions this year she had raised issues of animal cruelty including in dog breeding, towards wildlife and conditions in pig farming.


“In previous years I raised cruelty in the dairy industry, Dublin Zoo and multiple places and organisations we deem to be not only perfectly acceptable but bastions of Irish life.”

Ms Hoey, who was elected to the agricultural panel in the Upper House, asked when would they have a debate about the fact that “unfettered animal cruelty is going unpunished because our laws are not fit for purpose, we do not have a designated animal welfare crime unit and our animal rescues are astonishingly underfunded and overworked”.

She added that “we also have deplorable animal cruelty in our legal and State-sanctioned animal extortion industries, such as pig farming, the dairy industry, live exports of weaned calves”, and she called for a “much-needed and overdue debate on the reality of animal welfare in Ireland”.

Independent Senator Rónán Mullen said the education system “is an area where more emphasis needs to be placed on respect for creation and the animal kingdom”. He added that a lot of progress had been made over the years in animal welfare. “It would be terrible if we were to slip backwards.”

Acting Seanad leader Lorraine Clifford-Lee said she was unaware there was a revival in cockfighting. “I do not think I even want to seek out any information on it because it is just so vile.”

Ms Clifford-Lee said a debate on animal cruelty would be fitting and suggested the House could look at a cross-party Private Members’ Bill.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times